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Environmental advocate Christopher Gavigan is the father of three, including Poppy, pictured here. PHOTO BY AZUL DELGRASSO, M.A.
by Elena Epstein
One of Christopher Gavigan’s favorite activities is walking out to his garden with his kids and picking fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Creating a healthy world has been Gavigan’s mission for a long time, and as the dad of three young children, he gets to live that mission on a daily basis.
Gavigan is an environmental advocate, author of the bestselling book Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home (Dutton Adult, 2008) and the chief product officer of The Honest Company, which he co-founded with actress Jessica Alba. The company offers an expansive line of non-toxic products ranging from diapers and wipes to cleaning products and bath and skin essentials. I met him at the Santa Monica office of The Honest Company to chat about steps parents can take to protect their children from environmental toxins.
What advice do you have for new parents trying to create a healthy home?
Becoming a parent is this great moment of awakening around choices and opportunities for lifestyle improvements, but also a period of confusion. It can be overwhelming and, as parents, we can be very hard on ourselves. It’s important to relax and savor this incredible time. You can start making changes in your daily habits – the type of products you buy, what you eat. But don’t feel like you have to change everything all in one day. Educate yourself and start with one area to improve each day, each week, or each month – whatever works for you.
We hear a lot about healthy eating, but what about the products we use? Are there some ingredients that you encourage parents to avoid?
Anything with fragrance, I suggest you stay away from. You’ll find fragrance in diapers, bath and skin care, cleaning products and many other household products. The word “fragrance” could mean 30 to 150 synthetic ingredients that are not required to be listed on labels. Artificial food color is another important ingredient to try to avoid, and it is everywhere. You’ll find it in many processed foods. Definitely steer clear of "Artificial Colors" and "FD&C" colors Red 40 & 3, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1 & 2, and Green 3.
What should we look for in personal care products such as lotions and shampoos?
Our skin is like a sponge; it’s a porous organ that takes everything in. What you put on it enters your body and is carried through your bloodstream. Many cosmetics, lotions, shampoos and sunscreens contain harmful, unregulated chemicals, including phthalates, parabens, sulfates, sodium chloride, and common allergens. Look for all-natural, organic and hypoallergenic formulations. This focus is especially important for pregnant women, newborns and young children.
What other daily routines could cause harm?
As families, we need to take a good look at the products we use to clean our home. Shockingly, in many cases our indoor air quality is worse than the outdoor air quality. By simply switching cleaning products to those made with plant-based ingredients, you’ll decrease your family’s exposure to hundreds of harmful petrochemicals.
How do you explain to young children about the importance of eating healthy when they are surrounded by food coloring and processed food at parties and other events?
First and most importantly, as parents we need to set a good example and be good role models by choosing healthy, fresh, whole-food choices ourselves. Second, start conversations at an early age, talking about how your family chooses and makes decisions. For instance, we avoid all types of colored and processed food products, and our kids seem to have pride around this fact. Clearly talk about how other families may not make the same choices, but this is important for us to do. Kids are very insightful and they will pick up on a parent’s emotional cues. You don’t want to alarm them or be overly charged, but parents will want to share some important facts with them and encourage positive alternatives and choices they can be happy about.
Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at L.A. Parent.
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